International Digitisation Conference 'Access, Use, Re-Use: Unlocking the Potential of Online Digital Cultural Content

Dublin Castle, Monday 17th June 2013

‘Digital technology has fundamentally reshaped the way in which people of every age connect with society.’

Lord Puttnam, Digital Champion for Ireland and renowned film producer, addressed a large international audience in Dublin Castle yesterday which included representatives from key European cultural institutions in all 27 EU Member States, the creative industries and all the main cultural institutions in Ireland, North and South. The international conference Access, Use, Re-use: Unlocking the potential of online digital cultural content discussed how even greater quantities of cultural collections can be opened up for 24/7 easy access to images, videos, audios and animations.

The conference was opened by Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Fergus O’Dowd, T.D., who spoke enthusiastically of his own experience in using the internet for family history and local studies’ research. The Minister expressed strong support for the re-use of cultural and heritage information in education and research. The Minister’s address was followed by a video message from Ms.  Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission, who emphasised the importance of an open approach to information sharing and highlighted the important role of the Europeana portal.

The conference included a series of exciting presentations, addressing complementary aspects of digitisation and the subsequent re-use of cultural heritage material from around Europe. Key European and Irish initiatives in the area were also showcased as part of the event.

          Mr. Fergus O'Dowd, T.D., Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government          Lord Puttnam, Digital Champion for Ireland           Mr. Javier Hernández-Ros, Head of Unit - Creativity, Directorate G, Media and Data, Directorate General CONNECT, European Commission          Professor Jonathan Drori, CBE, Culture and Technology Strategist

IMAGE: Mr. Fergus O'Dowd, T.D., Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government
IMAGE: Lord Puttnam, Digital Champion for Ireland
IMAGE: Mr. Javier Hernández-Ros, Head of Unit - Creativity, Directorate G, Media and Data, Directorate General CONNECT, European Commission
IMAGE: Professor Jonathan Drori, CBE, Culture and Technology Strategist

Mr. Javier Hernandez-Ros, Head of Unit ‘Creativity’ at the Commission, focused on the challenges and opportunities for European digital culture. He also outlined the budgetary constraints for culture in future EU programmes. An overview of the French national investment programme was provided by Mr. Frederic Bokobza of the French Ministry of Culture. Despite the financial constraints on public spending, the French programme is establishing a spectrum of large digitisation public-private partnerships with a strong focus on long-term return on investment. Ms. Rosella Caffo, Director of ICCU, Italy, presented the work of two key EU projects, Linked Heritage and Athena Plus, as they feed into Europeana.

15 Golden Rules of moving from the Digital Dream to Cultural Reality were presented by Professor Jonathan Drori, specialist in digital and outreach strategy and former Head of Commissioning for BBC Online. In the development of new digitised resources, key requirements for the creation of successful services include: curiosity and experimentation, ongoing quality control, reliable evidence on which to base new developments and regular up-skilling. In a further investigation of the value of new resources, Mr. Ciaran Clissmann, Linked Heritage partner, provided an interesting survey of recent web and smartphone developments in the mainstream; these included advancements in GPS, location-driven services, image recognition, mobile apps, social media and augmented reality. Each of these developments was evaluated in terms of their appeal as approaches for solving persistent digitisation challenges.

The local authorities’ portal for digital culture, AskaboutIreland.ie, was one of the initiatives which attracted particular interest during the day. The wide range of resources on the site were presented by Mr. Paul McSweeney, CEO of the Local Government Management Agency, who provided practical examples of geo-enabled cultural heritage material, user-generated content and interactive schools’ resources.

Conference attendees provided lively feedback to the speakers in active question and answer sessions. Fruitful and interesting conversations focused on education, re-use of content, relevant web developments and the potential for cultural tourism. 

‘This is not the world of tomorrow, it’s not the coming digital era – these possibilities already exist in the here and now [...] We need to explore these possibilities in a way that’s far more than just ‘permitting’ various forms of passive consumption, but rather by seeing it as a massive catalyst for the encouragement of a whole new world of creative collaboration and learning.’ Lord Puttnam encouraged his audience with this passionate plea for innovative thinking. He also placed a particular emphasis on the exciting prospects for education as well as the importance of opening access to cultural assets for re-use and avoiding unnecessary restrictions.

The conference was hosted by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and Libraries Development, Local Government Management Agency, with support from the Linked Heritage Best Practice Network Project.

For more information on the digitisation conference, please contact Libraries Development, LGMA at librariesdevelopment@lgma.ie or phone 01 6332200.

                     
l-r: Annette Kelly, Head of Libraries Development, LGMA; Lord Puttnam, Digital Ambassador for Ireland; Margaret Hayes, Dublin City Librarian